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Cats in the Basement

Thankfully, I did not find a pack of Ferrell cats hiding out in the deep recesses of my home, although that would make quite the exciting blog entry. Rather, a client recently shared a recurring dream that so beautifully demonstrated our universal humanity that it needed to be shared.

The transformative journey, that “shedding” and integrating of what once was in exchange for what is needed next, is often hopeful and exciting. Much of the time, however, it frightens us.


The home within

Like many of us, “Cleopatra” (hey, as long as we’re changing names here, they might as well be creative), has found herself facing a time of change and transition in her life.  As our recent session began to wind down, Cleopatra suddenly perked up, “Oh! I’ve been meaning to tell you about this dream I’ve been having. I can’t figure it out but it’s really been bothering me…”

In her dream, Cleopatra comes to the realization that it is time to leave her current home and move to a new one (many times in dreams, our home is symbolic of our values–the stuff of which our sense of security and authentic belonging is made).  As Cleopatra walks around her house, preparing it for sale, she sees a cat wandering the hallway and begins to follow it.  Once in her basement, the cat disappears into a room in the far back corner (the “depths of the mind,” if you will).  When Cleo opens the door, she is horrified to discover that the room is full of cats.  The cats are everywhere; laying around on the floor, grooming themselves on the window sills and chasing each other around the furniture.  Cleopatra stops, startled, and asks herself in despair, “How will I ever be able to move into a new home when there are all these cats in this one?! Who would ever want to buy this house full of cats?!”


Cats are everywhere!

While cats have a variety of symbolic meanings in the context of dreams, what appears true for Cleopatra is that her many “cats” are getting in the way of her ability to move forward.  With all of this in the way, how will she ever move into the next stage of her life?  And who would want to be with someone surrounded by all these…well…cats?

Cats are frisky, quirky and entertaining animals.  Many would argue that they can also be aloof and mysterious. A hoard of cats is, however, an altogether different experience; a messy, crazy, problematic, and chaotic experience to be more specific.

We all have messy, crazy, problematic and chaotic elements in life that challenge us.  When we bravely accept change and transformation, we are often invited to “let the cat out of the bag;” to accept the opportunity to lovingly acknowledge the imperfections of our human existence. We may, in times of fear, find ourselves asking, “Who would want us with all our ‘cats’?” The reality is, who exists without them?

I don’t mean to suggest that our efforts toward healing are futile (as my life’s work is based on the opposite implication). What I do mean to say is this; the many cats of our psyche can be distracting, confusing, troublesome even.  But they also give our lives color.  They remind us of our universal connection, of our humanity.  “May he without cats throw the first fistful of catnip.”…or something.

In the home that is our most authentic self, we all have cats.  Sometimes they creep around quietly, barely noticeable.  Occasionally they scratch the arm of the couch, or knock over a glass of water, and sometimes they are down right disruptive. Once in a while their numbers are so vast that they appear to shake our home’s foundation.

Still, we must not forget what the experience of their vibrant color and dynamic characters allow us to appreciate in life.  We can access the softness of their fur, the peace in their purring, and their ability to evoke sweet tenderness; the stuff of which we are all cat